Data-driven finance leaders deliver big results, Finance Indaba attendees hear


Finance leaders can no longer afford to do without data and analytics, says Sage’s Mohammed Mosam.

At the year’s biggest finance networking event on the continent, Finance Indaba attendees were in no doubt about one thing: data and analytics are an imperative for finance leaders today, thanks to an interactive presentation from Sage that included a live demo.

Mohammed Mosam, director of product marketing for Sage Africa, Middle East & Asia, kicked off the session by saying that the digital economy has re-invented business – and it’s changed the way finance leaders need to do reporting for said businesses.

He cited a recent global survey involving CFOs who revealed that a top business priority (by a large margin) was mastering data analytics. This, said Mohammed, was due to the fact that pre-Covid-19 challenges, such as a lack of financial reporting visibility and data-driven insights, have accelerated. Stakeholders now expect their finance leaders to use the right reporting tools, so that they can make the right decisions.

Straight A’s
Mohammed added that in order for CFOs to provide insights to decision-makers, they need to get “straight A’s”. What he meant by this, is that when it comes to reporting, they must focus on three A’s:

1) Accessibility: your reporting needs the ability to publish information to the cloud, pull a real-time view, or combination of the two, as well as produce self-enabled dashboards so that any stakeholder has instant access to the data.

2) Audience: you need to be able to present the right data points to the right people, for example, internal stakeholders versus external suppliers.

3) Arrangement: your reporting needs to be flexible in its presentation. Again, this depends on who you’re reporting to and what they want, for example, hard stats or a narrative dashboard, or a combination of the two.

“As a finance professional, the buck stops with you, but if you get straight A’s, you’ll set yourself up for mastering data analytics,” said Mohammed.

Moving beyond spreadsheets
The audience was asked, by a show of hands, who uses Excel. All hands shot up, naturally. “Whatever happens, Excel will always be there. But, as an organisation grows you need to ask yourself: how much of that data is trustworthy, and are there multiple versions of the truth? You need to understand where you are in this journey, and you must move beyond spreadsheets,” said Mohammed.

What does ‘moving beyond spreadsheets’ mean when it’s so hard to let go of our old friend, Excel? Mohammed expanded by saying that the likes of dimensional reporting and the ability to do a deep-dive analysis allows finance professionals to be more predictive, and a lot less reactive.

“You need a solution that gives you outputs in a verifiable state – a single version of the truth – no matter the format it’s in. So, when you need to reproduce reports on a monthly basis, you can produce the results at the click of a button, and it goes to the right people. But they need to be empowered to self-report and access the reports too. It’s all about accessibility and integration; trustworthy data points and dimensional depth. Excel has its place, but it can’t do all of that,” added Mohammed.

A strategic enabler for business success
The session closed off with Grant Ball, a Sage product expert, giving a live demo of Sage Intacct, an accounting and reporting software solution that provides better insights and data visibility through dashboard reporting that’s near-live. Grant highlighted several success stories from the hospitality, financial services, and non-profit sectors, with functionality such as user defined dimensions, role-defined dashboards, and the ability to view the source of a transaction that’s responsible for a value on a report, among many more, all in a visual representation that’s colour-coded.

“You can also approve transactions directly in-platform through collaboration functionality: there’s no need to email. You can convert a requisition into an order, convert it to a receipt; everything is automated and efforts aren’t duplicated. Soon, new AI processes will create invoices automatically for suppliers via a dedicated email address,” concluded Grant.

There is no doubt that being data-driven requires collaboration and synergy of people and processes, and technology like data analytics and reporting – when leveraged effectively with the right tools – is a strategic enabler for business success, and delivers big results.

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